Monday, April 30, 2012

Gourmet Dinner Challenge

A couple weekends ago my husband challenged me to put together a gourmet meal in 3 hours. His friend, Sven, was coming over and I didn't even have groceries! So, I quickly planned out a "Svenu" for the meal and rushed off to the grocery store. Sorry for the bad quality of the picture, but the "Svenu" includes a Balsamic Caprese Salad, Chilled Fruit Soup, Orecchietti Pasta in a Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce and for dessert a Grand Marnier Souffle! (I had a lot of grocery shopping to do to get all of that ready!)

Sven arrived to the smell of garlic permeating our apartment. We had set the table (I even used real, cloth napkins and napkin rings). Alex poured us some wine and I proceeded to serve the first courses of Caprese salad followed by the strawberry-mango soup. The salad was layers of sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese with bits of fresh basil sprinkled on the plate and drizzled with both balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

The fruit soup was super easy to make. I had the left overs for breakfast the next morning as a smoothie. You can find the recipe for the chilled fruit soup here. My husband said it was the best fruit soup he's ever had. I take that as a very high compliment since he's been on several cruises where these chilled fruit soups are served basically every night. Even Sven was tres impressed!

For the main course we had my recreation of a pasta dish from Lombardino's. It's one of our favorite restaurants in Madison, and this time I came even closer to recreating it. You can find my recipe here. This time I used rapini or broccoli rabe instead of mushrooms and I also added a touch of brandy to the cream sauce. I served this up with fresh sourdough bread and whipped garlic butter on the side.

For dessert, we had Grand Marnier Souffle! This was the first time I had ever made a souffle, and I was a little nervous to try this out on a guest. I used a recipe from the Royal Caribbean Cruise cookbook and served the dessert with a creme anglaise sauce poured over the top. It turned out amazingly well! We paired this with a glass of Port wine from our trip to Europe and finished off the night well.

So - the challenge was met head on and I was indeed victorious! :) Just for fun, here's a picture of Sven enjoying that souffle with our happy cat, Leia, snuggling up on his lap. Happy cooking! 

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Last night I spent a couple hours' time finishing a long, soft, cuddly, white scarf for myself. I had seen one made from similar yarn while we were in Europe a few weeks ago and I really, really, really wanted one.

Unfortunately, I failed to realize how tempting this type of yarn was for my cats...

I don't have a before picture, but this is what the scarf looks like now, and this is the culprit:

I guess I should have seen it coming. At one point during the knitting process I stored the 1/2 completed project in a closet while I was gone at work. I came home to find the knitting needles splayed out on the bedroom floor and the skein of yarn disconnected from the partially knitted scarf. One of my cats had chewed through the yarn, but neither of them would confess to the crime!

At that point in time I figured they were after the knitting needles and the skein of yarn since that is what they usually go for. Boy was I wrong! Last night, I finished the scarf and left it on my kitchen table. I also left the skein of yarn out on my living room couch. (I didn't mean to leave that out, I just forgot to put it away in my sleepy state around midnight.)

Around 3:00am I heard a ripping noise. My cat (see above picture), Sasha, loves to get into things in the middle of the night. Usually she finds some piece of paper on the night stand or she's biting the tag on the comforter, going after the cord for the blinds - anything she can get her paws on. So, I didn't really pay too much attention to it at first. A few minutes later I heard the same ripping noise and I knew I wasn't going to get back to sleep if I didn't stop her.

I turned on the light and to my horror I found that she had dragged my scarf off of the kitchen table, into our bedroom, and had been pulling on it with her razor sharp claws and gnashing on it with her teeth! Needless to say she was escorted from the room with a stern look from me. Upon entering the living room, I found the skein of yarn on the couch untouched!!! I would have rather found that in a tangled mess than found my scarf all torn up. Both the bedraggled scarf and then unscathed skein of yarn were placed in secure, unopenable-by-cat, places until I could properly care for them in the morning.

When I got up for good this morning, I looked at the damage and realized the scarf can't be saved. I tried to weave the pulled out yarn bits into the scarf, but it was just too stretched out. It looked like it had lots of holes and plenty of misshapen parts. So, my cats now have a new soft, white, cuddly cat toy.

My husband told me that the next time I go to the craft store I have to keep in mind to buy things that aren't so tempting to our cats. I told him that the things that are tempting to the cats are also tempting to me! So, I guess I can't fault my pets for having good taste in yarn. I'll just need to keep it out of claws' way.

Here's a picture of my other cat, Leia. She's not quite as curious or destructive as Sasha, so she hasn't destroyed anything that I've made. She does like to lay in some curious places, like the bathroom sink or the laundry basket full of clean clothes...

I love them both despite it all! They're just too darn cute to be mad at for long. C'est la vie! Happy crafting!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

9 Patch Table Runner

With Mother's Day coming up I knew I wanted to make something for my mother-in-law, but wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do. I made her a quilt years ago for Christmas that she uses all of the time, so at least I know she likes what I make!

I was looking through my fabric stash trying to see what I could put together without making a special trip to the store. I don't have much of a stash since I try to buy just the amount of fabric that I'm going to need for specific projects.

Luckily, I had lots of little 1.5"x1.5" squares left over from the Super Mario Quilt I'm making my husband. (That project still isn't done, but you can see more here: Super Mario Quilt Project.) So I figured I could do something with those. In the end, a 9 patch table runner is what I came up with. I had just enough summer green, dark brown and white fabric left from the Mario quilt to complete the table runner. I guess it was just meant to be! I used a fat quarter that I didn't have any plans for on the back. I wanted to keep the back pretty neutral in case she wants to flip it over and have something less colorful.

I really like how the colors turned out together. If my mother-in-law puts a vase of flowers in the center of this, she could use it for pretty much any season with the right color of flowers. (I'm almost tempted to keep it for myself, but maybe I'll make another with similar colors and pattern for my own table.) I still need to wash it yet, but I've got a couple weeks before I'll be giving it to her.
For the quilting, I just kept it simple with a stitch-in-the-ditch between each 9 patch square and around the border. I hand stitched the binding on and just used up the rest of the green fabric I had on hand. So, I hope you've all got some finishes under your belt this week, and if not I'm sure you're working on some marvelous projects. I had one other project from this week which you can check out here: Pin Cushions - where I made some of those cathedral window pin cushions that are really popular now. Hope you all have a great upcoming week! Happy crafting!

Linking up with Confessions of a Fabric Addict for another finish! Check out everyone else's projects there!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pin Cushions!

I am soooo excited for this post! Rather, I guess I'm excited for my new pin cushion(s)! I have been eyeing up these cathedral window pin cushions and have wanted to make one for months. I thought it would be much harder than it was, but thanks to this tutorial at My Go-Go Life, it was a breeze! I might make a million more of these someday... My second one is for my mother. We're going to a Mother's Day quilt retreat, so I figured it would be the perfect gift!

This is the pin cushion I was using previously... (sad, isn't it?)

This little guy I made in about 30 seconds when I desperately needed something to use for a pin cushion. I didn't have any batting, so I stuffed it with left over spiderweb from Halloween. That made it really dense and hard for the pins to push in without a little nudging. (Spiderweb is not a great medium, in case you're wondering, but it does actually work if you're in a bind.)

For my new and improved pin cushions, I used real batting. The pins just glide right in now and it's so pretty to look at! I've retired the old one into a cat toy. My cats were always stealing it off of my desk anyway, so now it can be permanently theirs. Everyone's happy!

So, if you've been procrastinating on making one of these, DON'T put it off any longer! I love, love, love, love, love mine! If it wasn't almost midnight right now I'd want to sew for hours just so I could use the cushion, but there's always tomorrow! Happy crafting!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Patchy Pillow

It's been a long time since I've put together a pillow. In fact, the last time I remember making one was when I was in grade school with the help of my mom. We had just gotten back from a family vacation to Shipshewana, Indiana where we went into many Amish fabric stores. That's probably when I really got the fabric/sewing bug. I think we made 12 pillows for my little twin-sized bed! (And I still have them!)

So, I had a few scraps left over from my jelly roll 9-patch quilt and figured I'd make them into a quick throw pillow for my brother- and sister-in-law. It just so happens that their apartment decor is yellow and gray, so it works out perfectly. Plus - if they don't like it they can give it away to someone else or throw it in a corner. :) It only took about 30 minutes to put together (once I got my math right on the borders and backing). And since I already had all of the fabric lying around, I'm not out one extra dollar for this project! I even had a pillow insert that was just stuffed in my closet looking lonely! The envelope backing was super quick and easy and it means they'll be able to wash the pillow cover if it gets anything spilled on it. I have plenty of pillows on my couch right now that I can't do this with, so now I'm contemplating making covers for all of those too! That will be a project for a day much farther in the future.

I know I should have ironed this pillow before I took pictures of it... but I didn't. It's probably going to be crammed into a little box to be mailed off to them, so it's bound to get some wrinkles! Anyway, just thought I would share since it's my only sewn finish of this week. I have also finished my blue/brown knit scarf and I made a knit dishcloth for my mother with a subtle butterfly design on it. Neither are too special, but maybe once I have a few more of those done I'll do a post of those knitted projects as well. Until next time - happy crafting!

Linking up to Confessions of a Fabric Addict for a Whoop! Whoop! finish. :) Check out the rest of the great projects and the fabulous quilt her friend made! Also linking up to Quilt Story so check out all of those awesome fabric stories as well!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Super Mario Quilt Top 1/2 Done!

Well... I would have gotten it over half way done, but I got distracted by this bright, shiny, new sewing machine! My husband bought me an early birthday present of a new Janome HD1000 sewing machine and I'm in love with it! I played around with the tension and dropping the feed dogs (something I've never been able to do on a machine before) for a couple hours and then got to sewing the Shy Guy character square.

Unfortunately the Shy Guy is still only 1/2 done, but I'll be able to finish it up this weekend. Otherwise, I've got 12 full character squares out of 24 completed! It's been very slow going, but now that I have my new machine I'm going to be sewing non-stop! I can't believe how smooth it runs! And, having the new machine is going to give me some accountability to keep sewing and get this quilt finished just in time for hot summer weather. :) (Maybe we'll have to blast the A/C to use it!!) Anyway, happy Friday and happy crafting!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sneak Peak...

So, I promised my husband that I'd be working on his Super Mario Quilt while he's gone this week. So far I haven't had a chance to do too much, but I have laid out the Shy Guy square and that should be sewn together for an updated post by Friday for all of the characters that I've put together. So, just a quick update here today to say that I have made at least some progress!! (Plus, I should be getting my new sewing machine in the mail today, so of course I'll be glued to it for the next few days!) Sorry that the photo doesn't have quite the whole character square shown. I had already started gathering up the bottom rows when I thought "I should take a picture!" :) Happy crafting!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Strawberry Mango Soup

Have you ever been on a cruise and been in awe of the fancy, exotic sounding fruit soups they serve? Well, I have, and I was bound and determined to make one of my own. And...I've been successful! It actually was really, really simple. Here's what you need to do:

1lb box of fresh strawberries
1 large mango
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup ginger ale

1) Cut strawberries and mango into small chunks and place in a large food processor. Add sugar and orange juice.
2) Blend on high until all fruit bits have been incorporated and mixture is smooth.
3) Add ginger ale to fruit mixture. (This will cause the mixture to foam a bit, so make sure there is room in the food processor bowl for the mixture to expand.)
4) Divide into bowls and serve.
*Optional garnishes: mint leaves, basil leaves, sliced/fanned strawberry
**Steps 1 and 2 can be done the day before or a couple hours in advance. Only add the ginger ale once you are ready to serve the soup.

This recipe also makes a great smoothie! Happy cooking!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Well, I just got the best birthday present from my husband! We just ordered it, and my birthday isn't until July, but he said I could have it early. He bought me a new sewing machine! A Janome HD1000 which I can't wait to use! So, I've been designing quilt tops like mad and thought I might share. They are probably really hard to see in the pencil sketches without making the pictures larger, so I apologize if you can't make anything out at all.

The first one is a zigzag pattern. I've seen so many of these that I kind of want to try it on my own. My biggest fear is that I haven't cut or sewn triangles in a few years so I'm gonna have to re-learn how to do that. I'm hoping its not as bad as I think it is. I think I have an irrational fear of triangles so all of the patterns that I've made tend to use squares or strips instead.

The second quilt is a snowball pattern. I've always liked this quilt because it's geometric but also circular. I think this could be really fun in bright colors with a black background. Something that will really pop when you look at it.

The third quilt was inspired by Amanda Jean's latest finish. I loved her rolling stone quilt so much I decided I want to give it a try. The rolling stone block really reminded me of the card trick block. so I figured why not put the two of them together? I think I'd like to make this one in some whimsical prints with a white background. Of course that will change when I go to the fabric store and fall in love with something totally different!

So, my new sewing machine should be here before the end of the month (hopefully I'll already be sewing on it by that time). Until then, I've promised my husband I'll keep working on his Super Mario Quilt (that I've been neglecting horribly!). So, stay tuned for an update on that sometime this week too since I plan to knock a few character blocks off of the WiP table and into the completed file. Until then, happy crafting!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


My husband, Alex, and I just returned from a 2 week long trip to Europe. It was amazing and we had a wonderful time, but I'm glad to be back home. Unfortunately, he had to whisk off on a two-day business trip right after we got back so I'm at home with just the cats. I guess that gives me lots of time to reflect on our trip and all of the wonderfully crafty things I saw!

Our favorite stop on the trip was to Porto, Portugal - famous for Port Wine (yum!!). This city is very artsy. Everywhere we turned there was a little street market with local artists selling their creations. I fell in love! These are two things that we purchased for ourselves:

The left picture is a hair barrette made from a zipper (I guess I'll be the only one using that, but Alex thought it was really cool). They were also selling necklaces and bracelets to match these, but they were all a little too large for me. The right picture is supposed to be a necklace, but we are going to use it as a Christmas ornament for our tree. It's made out of comic book pages and newspaper that has been rolled together and shellacked. The vendor was also selling baskets and bowls that he had made with the same technique. I want to try to find a tutorial for this, or see if I can figure out the craft on my own. The bowls he had were really unique, but I really didn't have room to bring one home.

Everywhere I turned, at any city we went to in Europe, all of the women were wearing scarves. I guess this is a big trend in the US as well, but much more so in Europe. It seemed like they thought they would be committing some type of fashion crime if they didn't wear a scarf every day. I saw a lot of these type of T-shirt scarves for sale in Porto, and I want to make one of those soon. This picture on the right is just one I found online from Make & Do Girl. But... I've started another knit scarf. I'm so new to the world of knitting that I wanted to give it another shot with better yarn. This scarf is so soft compared to the one I made for my husband, and coming out much neater. It's still getting warmer here every day, but not too warm to still wear a scarf.

The last major thing that inspired me was the Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It is so beautiful, colorful and vibrant that I can't help being in awe of its splendor. Someday, I really want to make a quilt that tries to capture its beauty - or maybe a cross stitch. Either way I won't be able to do it justice, but I like the idea of having a crafty work of art made in its honor.

I hope you've all been inspired recently to create something beautiful and unique! Happy crafting

Linking up to Freshly Pieced today for WiP Wednesday.
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